Trinity Journal: CVP Water Users Say Higher River Release Would Violate ESA

CVP water users say higher river release would violate ESA

Posted: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 6:15 am

By Amy Gittelsohn The Trinity Journal

Two entities that provide Central Valley Project water to agricultural and municipal water users say the federal Bureau of Reclamation’s plan to increase Trinity River flows to protect fish in the lower Klamath River violates the federal Endangered Species Act.
Attorneys for the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority and the Westlands Water District have delivered to Reclamation officials a 60-day notice of violations of the ESA, which could be followed by a lawsuit.
The notice says Reclamation failed to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service on the effects to ESA-listed species from using the Trinity River to augment flows in the lower Klamath in August and September.
The proposed releases are unlawful, the notice states, for multiple reasons, including they will cause total releases for fisheries in 2013 to exceed the 453,000 acre-feet called for in a dry year established by the Trinity River Record of Decision.
Earlier opinions issued by NMFS and the federal Fish and Wildlife Service found that the Record of Decision flow is likely to adversely affect fish in the Sacramento River and Delta smelt, the notice states.
Releases to the Trinity River above and beyond that will affect listed species, the notice states, with “unusually high and cold flows on the Trinity River in August and September, conditions that these species would not experience under natural conditions … Further, these releases will diminish the resources available to maintain water temperatures for listed species in the Trinity River and the Sacramento River.”
From the Bureau of Reclamation, spokesman Pete Lucero said Reclamation will not comment on pending or contemplated litigation.
Last week the agency released documents that find no significant impact from the additional releases. Today, July 31, is the final day to comment on the documents.
Reclamation’s proposal is to release up to an additional 62,000 acre-feet of water to the Trinity River, which feeds into the Klamath River. It is hoped that the water will prevent conditions like those in 2002, when at least 34,000 fish died before spawning in the lower Klamath River.
The plan has drawn praise from fisheries advocates and concern from CVP water and power users. Those power users include the Trinity Public Utilities District, whose board members have discussed the possibility of joining litigation opposing the higher flows if a lawsuit is filed.
Opponents say Reclamation does not have the authority to make the additional releases and losses to water and power users have not been compensated for higher river releases in the past.
From the California Water Impact Network, Tom Stokely finds arguments that putting more Trinity River water down the Trinity will hurt fish in the Sacramento River to be bogus.
“The priority for use of water from the Trinity River is the Trinity River, and the reality is (Reclamation) has had opportunities to protect fish in the Sacramento River and they haven’t done them.”
It’s true that increased flows at this time of year will make the water higher and cooler than normal for fish on the Trinity, but “all indications are it will benefit them and not harm them,” he said.
“I do think in the long run there needs to be a more coordinated effort to prevent these fish kills, including more water from the Klamath side — not just the Trinity River — to prevent these fish kills,” Stokely said.

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